Genre system

As introduced by Bazerman (1994), a genre system consists of "interrelated genres that interact with each other in specific settings" (97). "The system of genres [is] the full set of genres that instantiate the participation of all . . . parties. . . . This would be the full interaction, the full event, the set of social relations as it has been enacted. It embodies the full history of speech events as intertextual occurrences, but attending to the way that all the intertext is instantiated in generic form establishing the current act in relation to prior acts" (p.99).


Bazerman, C. (1994). Systems of genres and the enactment of social intentions. In A. Freadman & P. Medway (Eds.), Genre and the new rhetoric. London: Taylor & Francis. 79-101.


For Bazerman (1994), the U.S. patent application process is a "complex web of interrelated genres, where each participant makes a recognizable act or move in some recognizable genre, which then may be followed by a certain range of appropriate generic responses by others" (p. 97). The genre system is inclusive of all participants ("that is, the full file of letters from and to the client, from and to the government, from and to the accountant," p. 99).

Other Notable Uses: 

Spinuzzi (2004) offers an evaluation of genre system in comparison with genre set, genre repertoire, and genre ecology, by examining mode of action, agency, foregrounded genres, perspective, and relationship between genres (sequential or overlap [i.e., inclusion].

Dryer, D. B. (2008). Taking up space: On genre systems as geographies of the possible. JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, 28(3/4), 503–534.

Tardy, C. M. (2003). A genre system view of the funding of academic research. Written Communication, 20(1), 7–36.

Original Use: 

In her study of Renaissance genres, Colie (1973) uses the idea of a "genre-system" to characterize the background of accepted genres and beliefs about their value and relationships to understand the vigorous inventiveness and contentiousnessof Renaissance literature. "A genre-system offers a set of interpretations, of 'frames' or 'fixes' on the world" (p. 8).

Contributed by: 

Emerging Genres class, N.C. State University, Spring 2010, Carolyn Miller

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